• Question: What sorts of experiments do you do in your lab which are related to climate changes

    Asked by 337cmte49 to Cat?, Elaine, Helena, Iain, Gabriel on 9 Mar 2016.
    • Photo: Helena Quilter

      Helena Quilter answered on 9 Mar 2016:

      I make new molecules and new chemicals from plants in my lab so I don’t really do any experiments that are related to climate change like working out the effects of climate change on the weather and the planet or things like that.

      Climate change is the main reason that I’m doing the work that I do though so in all my experiments I’m trying to reduce how much we effect the planet and to try slow down how quickly climate change is happening. So if one day we could make all our plastics out of plants or waste products instead of the crude oil we make it out of now. It’s using crude oil (that’s a thick black liquid we get from the ground that contains lots of carbon and took millions of years to be made) that has caused climate change as when we use it (usually by burning it) we produce lots of a gas called carbon dioxide which we think is the reason why the planet is getting warmer!

      All of my experiments are looking at what we could use instead of that crude oil – at the minute I’m looking at some chemicals we get from plants and trees called terpenes that are made of carbon and hydrogen. They’re what make pine trees smell piney and make oranges smell orangey 🙂 If I can make new materials out of these then hopefully we will have less effect on the planet!

    • Photo: Cat Scott ?

      Cat Scott ? answered on 13 Mar 2016:

      Hi 337cmte49,

      In my lab we use computer codes to make simulations of the planet ? and the air around us. It works a bit like this:

      If you stand outside and look up into the air towards the clouds ☁ (**but not directly at the Sun!☀**), then imagine that all the air above you is divided up into invisible boxes.

      In each of those boxes there are loads of chemical reactions and complicated processes happening. It’s different in each box because they all contain different things, and some are closer to the ground, whereas some of them are up in the clouds ☁. It’s too complicated to try and keep track of all these different things in your head, so we have to use computer programs to remember all the information and perform the calculations ?.

      The things that happen in a box that is over a forest, will be different to a box that is over a city, or the desert. In a box over a forest, we have the gases coming out of the trees, but in a box over a city we have pollution from cars and factories. We use these computer simulations to understand how forests ? are affecting the air, but also how they might be affected by climate change.